Critics: Change OK’d to help developer
The city-parish Planning Commission approved a change Monday to the East Baton Rouge Parish traditional neighborhood development ordinance, which critics said was done to benefit the controversial Rouzan TND.
Parish officials said the change was done to make the TND ordinance consistent with other sections of the unified development code, such as those dealing with planned unit developments and small planned unit developments.
Opponents said the change was made to benefit Rouzan developer Tommy Spinosa.
“They’re going to keep changing the rules so the government and developer get what they actually want,” Daniel Hoover said.
Hoover and Bob Welch, another opponent of Rouzan, live in two homes on five acres near the center of Rouzan’s surrounding 119 acres, which is on Perkins Road southeast of Glasgow Avenue.
The amendment drops a requirement that a developer prove his or her “control of the entire area” of a proposed TND in order to receive TND zoning. In place of that wording is a requirement that a developer control all land included in the proposed TND zoning district.
Last month, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Rouzan was improperly rezoned from A-1 single-family residential to a TND because Spinosa’s did not own or control the land owned by Hoover and Welch.
Spinosa is appealing the ruling.
Assistant Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson said the change was made to the TND ordinance because the court ruling “brought to light” that the language was out of step with the rules regarding other zoning designations.
“This will not fix the Rouzan TND,” Batson said. “They will still have to come back to the Planning Commission to get TND zoning.”
The Planning Commission voted 6-2 in favor of changing the wording of the TND ordinance. Voting for the measure were Commissioners Darius Bonton, James Gilmore Jr., Laurie Marien, Steven Perret, John Price and W.T. Winfield. Commissioners Gregory DuCote and Sarah Holiday-James voted against the measure; They unsuccessfully backed a motion to defer action on the ordinance for a month. Councilwoman Tara Wicker, who chairs the commission, was absent.
The motion is set to go before the Metro Council on April 16.
Alex St. Amant, attorney for Hoover and Welch, said while Batson may have said the TND change was not intended to affect Rouzan, the final verdict remains to be seen.
“Will City Hall obey their own laws or will they continue to look for ways to avoid them and reward the ‘players’ and the rich and the powerful?” St. Amant said in a statement.
In other business, commissioners easily approved the concept plans and development drawings for The River District, a 35.1-acre mixed-use development between downtown and LSU.
The development is slated to contain 1,825 high-density residential units and seven medium-density units, along with 118,500 square feet of commercial space, 274,000 square feet of office space, 34,000 square feet of restaurant space and two hotels with 212 rooms.
Charles Landry, attorney for The River District, said Monday’s action was “the first step in an important project.”
“With each component, we look forward to coming back to you,” he said.
If all goes well, developers said construction of the first housing units in the River District would begin before the end of the year.